Workforce Initiatives in Greater Peoria

by Kate Carroll
Greater Peoria Economic Development Council

A variety of projects are making talent development a community effort.

Attracting, retaining and developing a talented workforce are critical components to developing a strong economy. Talent development involves preparing the future workforce with the skills necessary to meet current and anticipated business demands. While this strategic endeavor requires a large amount of long-term planning, it’s crucial that we create short-term goals to ensure Greater Peoria has the foundational pieces in place to develop the talent needed for future employers.

Talent Development Committees
Our growing team at the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council (GPEDC) is making talent development a community effort. We recently launched Talent Attraction and Talent Retention committees, which are comprised of business professionals and young leaders within the community.

The goal of local human resources recruiters is to encourage talented individuals to work at their companies. The goal of the GPEDC’s Talent Attraction Committee is to promote Greater Peoria as a great place to live and work. When these two processes work together, local businesses can attract their needed talent and flourish. This committee is currently working on developing a regional website, concierge service for employers and alumni recruitment program to encourage former Greater Peorians to return home.

Once attracted to the region, individuals need to find an environment that encourages them to stay. Our Talent Retention Committee is focusing on developing that ideal environment through positive and ongoing connections with newcomers. We are in the process of developing an orientation program and “First Friend” matchmaker for new Greater Peorians that will showcase all the wonderful assets the region has to offer and help our newest citizens feel welcome and get engaged.

Newly Adopted Programs
The new-look GPEDC has a fleet of individuals who are coming together to advance our initiatives. In addition to our new committees, we have recently adopted two talent development programs initiated by other community organizations and volunteers—CICESS and Peoria Pathways to Prosperity. These programs have leveraged volunteer talent and regional challenges to further community development efforts. As these initiatives are aimed at both growing the local economy and developing our future workforce, they were an ideal fit within the GPEDC.

CICESS (pronounced success) stands for Central Illinois Center for Excellence in Secure Software. It is an apprenticeship program developed by local employers in partnership with Illinois Central College that combines on-the-job training and classroom instruction under the supervision of a secure software professional, helping individuals learn the practical and theoretical aspects of this highly skilled occupation. The program fits very well within our team’s workforce initiatives, as apprenticeships are proven to be one of the best ways to develop a talented workforce.

In today’s world, cyber security has become a critical component to a successful business. If overlooked, cyber security breaches can be extremely detrimental to an organization. Former CIA Director Leon Panetta once remarked, “The next Pearl Harbor we confront could very well be a cyber attack that cripples our power systems, our grid, our security systems, our financial systems, our governmental systems.” Our CICESS team is working to ensure we have the secure software talent needed for future employers. These efforts showcase the forward thinking necessary to continue to develop the region’s economy.

Peoria Pathways to Prosperity is a collaborative effort led by Peoria Public Schools District 150, the City of Peoria, CEO Council, Illinois Central College, Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Student Assistance Commission, Peoria Federation of Teachers and the GPEDC. We all know a strong local education system is crucial for the future of our economy. We also know there are challenges in the world of education. To meet these challenges, we need to think outside the box. Brent Baker, our new Peoria Pathways to Prosperity Coordinator, will be reaching out to students in District 150 and helping them prepare for internships and other work-based learning opportunities with area employers. Sharing the pathways to access Greater Peoria’s most critically needed job opportunities—those centered on manufacturing and healthcare—is a primary part of what he hopes to achieve in his new role.

With the significant number of long-term initiatives and planning underway at the GPEDC, the future is looking bright for our region. There are new ideas, fresh perspectives and a variety of projects that will help us achieve our goals. With about 15 current projects under our workforce umbrella, the GPEDC is excited to bring members of the community together in collaboration to ensure we attract, retain and develop a skilled workforce for years to come. iBi

Kate Carroll is director of workforce solutions for the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council.

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